“What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”
For the most part, we are given a name when we are born, that name goes on our birth certificate and that is the name we will be known by, at least legally, throughout our minority and for much of our lives. Of course, there are circumstances where one might choose to legally change ones name, the most obvious being upon marriage.
As an adult, or adolescent aged over sixteen you will, in most circumstances, be able to apply to legally change your own name. An individual aged under sixteen cannot legally change their own name, only their parents can do this. This article aims to make the process of changing a name for a child a little easier to understand.
The starting point when considering whether to change your child’s name is to decide whether you want to change it legally, so that they cease entirely to be known by their birth name or whether an informal change is sufficient, wherein their friends and family would know them by their new name but they would continue to be known by their birth name in all formal settings and on all formal paperwork. Serious consideration needs to be given by parents when considering whether to legally change their child’s name as to do so could have an impact on their understanding of their identity and background. This is therefore not a decision to be made lightly.
If the decision is made to change the child’s name legally, the next step would be to obtain the written consent of all persons who share Parental Responsibility for the child. This will usually be the child’s mother and father but could include, in some cases, the Local Authority, adopted parents and guardians. If there is any doubt as to who shares Parental Responsibility for the child, legal advice should be sought. A single parent acting alone cannot legally change the child’s name without first obtaining consent and often agencies will refuse to register the change without having sight of the letters of consent. An exception would be if there is no other person with Parental Responsibility, for example if the other parent had died, or was never registered on the child's birth certificate.
Where this consent is not forthcoming, for example the other parent does not agree to the name change or they cannot be located to provide their consent, an order of the court would be required. In obtaining this order, the court would consider all of the arguments for and against the name change and when making a final determination, the overriding factor for the court will be the child’s welfare and whether it is in the best interests of the child for their name to be changed. After the end of a relationship one parent is often keen that the child should no longer have the other parent’s surname, however a court usually prefers the child to retain that link with the other parent.
Once consent has been obtained, or a court order to that effect, the change of name can be affected either by way of Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration.
A Deed Poll is a legal document that proves a change of name. In order to do this, the relevant forms should be completed and submitted to the Queens Bench Division at the Royal Courts of Justice who will formally stamped the Deed Poll and returned to you by the court as evidence of the change of name. The forms to complete can be obtained at https://www.gov.uk/change-name-deed-poll/change-a-childs-name. The Deed Poll can also be enrolled which provides a public record of the change of name. This is not a legal requirement, but some agencies will require evidence the Deed Poll has been enrolled before accepting the change of name.
A Statutory Declaration is formal statement which sets out, in this case, the intention for the child to give up their birth name and instead use their new name. The Statutory Declaration must be sworn in the presence of a Solicitor or Commissioner for Oaths. It is then the statutory declaration that the child would use as evidence of their change of name.
A Statutory Declaration, unlike a Deed Poll does not provide a record of the change of name or enrolment of the name and therefore is not always as widely accepted as proof of the name change.
Whether the change of name is affected by Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration, this will have no effect on the child’s birth certificate. The child’s name will remain the same on their birth certificate and that alongside the Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration would be provided as proof of identity.
There are very limited circumstances where a child’s name can be changed on their birth certificate. This is as a birth certificate is seen as a historic record of the child’s birth and therefore should not be update without cause.
We at SA Law can provide you with advice and assistance with obtaining a change of name for your child. We are also able to assist with obtaining the consent of all those who hold parental responsibility for the child, and if necessary, making the necessary application to the court for permission to change the child’s name in the absence of consent.